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Dr. James R. Johnson has been rehearsing and conducting choral ensembles for over four decades. Choirs under his direction have performed all across the United States and the world, from the Cathedrals of Notre Dame and Chartres in France, to St. Peter’s in Rome; from Monreale in Sicily, to St. Paul’s and St. James’ in London; from St. Stephen’s in Vienna, to St. Patrick’s in Dublin, and the Nidarosdomen in Norway, and many others. His conducting has taken him from the Sultanate of Oman to the villages of Tanzania; from the small frame churches of the Great Plains to Carnegie Hall.

Dr. Johnson began working with the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra almost twenty five years ago under the baton of Maestro Henry Charles Smith. Maestro Smith frequently requested the Augustana Choir, under Professor Johnson, to join forces with the SDSO and its Symphony Chorus, directed by chorus master Don Levsen, for major choral works and opera productions. The 2007-2008 season marked the beginning of Dr. Johnson’s role as chorus master of the Symphony Chorus.

A native of Luverne, Minnesota, Dr. Johnson began his choral studies with Weston Noble at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where he received his degree, magna cum lauda, with majors in vocal music and history. The University of Tennessee’s Master of Music degree was granted Professor Johnson upon completion of studies in choral conducting with Donald Neuen. Professor Johnson also holds the Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Illinois where he studied aesthetic philosophy, choral and orchestral conducting, and music education. He has been director of choral activities at high schools in Minnesota and Iowa, and taught on the faculties of Boston University, Augustana College, and Northern State University. He has conducted all manner of choral ensembles, and taught subjects at the undergraduate and graduate levels in music history of the medieval, renaissance, baroque, rococo, classic, romantic and modern periods; courses in choral conducting and methods, vocal pedagogy, and vocal and choral literature; applied voice; vocal jazz; and aesthetic philosophy.

Compositions and arrangements by Dr. Johnson range from small and large works for choral ensembles to intimate arrangements for classical guitar. As a published author in the field of aesthetic philosophy his work has appeared in various journals and is currently being translated into Polish for inclusion in the journal Sztuka i Filozofia.

The Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Performing Arts was bestowed upon Dr. Johnson in 2004, and in 2014, in recognition of “outstanding achievement in the field of vocal music,” Luther College presented him with The Weston H. Noble Award. Professional Academic Honorary Society memberships have been conferred upon Dr. Johnson by Pi Kappa Lambda in Music, Phi Delta Kappa in Education, and Phi Alpha Theta in History.